People in Colorado are very pro-cannabis; so pro-cannabis that we were the first to legalize recreational cannabis, and remain the center of the U.S. cannabis industry today. It really hurt our feelings when an Arizona anti-cannabis group called Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy (ARDP) started running “misleading political advertisements” about Colorado schools not receiving promised money from marijuana taxes (and other wildly inaccurate accusations). For the record, this is false – a subject that seems to be trapped in a knowledge hole across the nation and sometimes even here. Please educate yourself and people you know to avoid mass ignorance on this subject. In light of the recent no vote on cannabis legalization in Arizona (not to mention the presidential election), maybe we should re-evaluate the impact of false media on the world and how we view things.
Arizona’s Anti-Cannabis and Anti-Colorado Advertising Campaign
While the state government regulates marijuana in Colorado, no one regulates false campaign ads in Arizona – for proof of that, take a look at this ARDP video. First, the video states that Denver schools got no tax revenue whatsoever from marijuana taxes – ever. That is FALSE. Second, the video states that Colorado’s teen marijuana use is the highest in the nation and 74% higher than any other state. That is FALSE. Third, the video states that cannabis products created to look like candy were marketed to kids. That is FALSE. Fourth, the video states that marijuana-related traffic deaths in Colorado have increased 62% following legalization. That is FALSE. And, p.s., the video is still up on the Proposition 205 website – it hasn’t been taken down, despite a lengthy letter from Colorado’s House, Senate, and Joint Budget Appropriates Committees. Is Donald Trump a member of Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy?? At least tell the truth, people, please!
Arizona’s Marijuana Proposition 205 Failed
Prop 205 was called Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and clearly states: “Selling or giving marijuana to persons under the legal age remains illegal,” “Driving while impaired by marijuana remains illegal,” and “Marijuana sold in this state at licensed retail facilities is tested, labeled, and packaged securely.” If it had passed, illegal sales of marijuana would still be illegal, and state marijuana regulators could only have issued a tenth of the licenses for marijuana retailers as it issues for series 9 liquor licenses (this law is in effect until 2021).
The Truth About Colorado’s Marijuana Taxes & Colorado Schools
Let’s start with Colorado marijuana taxes — yes, some are earmarked for schools, and yes, Colorado schools are receiving the funds. Some of this confusion is over where and how much goes to which school programs – the government doesn’t just hand principals a big huge bag of money; it’s distributed through different channels. In this Denver Post article, the original letter to ARDP leaders from the Colorado Appropriations Committee members is reprinted, and makes the following points:
- From 2015-2016, $138.3 million of $220.8 million marijuana tax revenues went to the Colorado Department of Education to be distributed to Colorado schools ($21.5 million went to marijuana regulation by the Department of Revenue, Department of Agriculture, Department of Law, and the Governor’s Office of Marijuana Coordination – that’s only 10% of what Colorado schools received)
- $114.9 million went to BEST (Building Excellent Schools Today) for public school creation
- $5.7 million went to Colorado’s Public School Fund
- $5.5 million went to increase health professional presence in schools
- $4.3 million went to increasing health-related programs in schools
- $2.9 million went to drop-out prevention programs
- $2.9 million went to school bullying prevention and education
- $1.5 million went to the Department of Public Health and Environment for the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, which provides data for the state to address with funds and new programs
The ARDP was wrong to claim no marijuana tax revenue is going to Colorado schools.
The Truth About Colorado’s Teen Marijuana Use
The ARDP claimed in its “No on Prop 205” ad that teen marijuana use in Colorado is 74% higher than any other state in the nation. That is also FALSE. As the Appropriations Committees’ members noted, “rates of teen use have actually remained relatively unchanged since 2009 and are in line with the national average.” That’s right, teenagers could still get pot prior to legalization, and (surprise!) teenagers cannot buy pot legally in Colorado even after recreational legalization; they need to be 21. For the record, this is the same type of law that Arizona voted on. A government study on Colorado’s high school cannabis use showed a slight dip in marijuana use since recreational cannabis was legalized, and a Colorado Department of Public Health poll demonstrated that teen marijuana use is actually lower her or equal to the national average.
The Truth About Colorado’s Candy-Related Marijuana Product Marketing
No marijuana products are marketed to children in Colorado, or even teenagers. Adults eat candy but no one calls it that, and adults who consume cannabis may (we said “may”) eat more candy than other adults, but we have no scientific evidence to back that up. In fact, over the past few years, Colorado has made many legal changes to marijuana product packaging for the express purpose of avoiding marketing to children or accidental childhood (or adulthood) ingestion. Marijuana-containing gummy bears were made illegal on June 10th, and new packaging laws centered around clearer and more obvious cannabis potency levels exist and are consistently updated. Permanent Colorado cannabis packaging laws include marijuana-containing products “designed or constructed to be significantly difficult for children under five years of age to open,” and “opaque” to prevent children from seeing yummy items inside. In addition, a new symbol designed to be easily seen and understood will be required for all marijuana THC-containing products as of 2017; it’s a bright red diamond with an exclamation point and “THC” in the middle. I suppose we could still install tiny little alarms that go off whenever a child touches the package, but no one has invented those yet. For most of Colorado parents, a cupboard out of our children’s reach (that’s where we’re stashing the other Halloween candy, too) or a locked box is usually adequate.
The Truth About Colorado’s Marijuana-Related Traffic Deaths in Denver
The Denver Post reported 2015 as the deadliest year for traffic fatalities since 2008 in Denver, including an 11.7% increase in motorcycle deaths; 60 of those traffic fatalities were not wearing seatbelts. The problem with measuring marijuana-related traffic fatalities in Colorado or any state is that people often combine marijuana use with alcohol or other drug use – it’s hard to know which of the combo was responsible for the crash. The Council on Responsible Cannabis Regulation noted the difficulty of comparing statistics for prior to Colorado’s legalization and afterward because we never recorded marijuana-related traffic fatalities before the legalization happened. As in many other marijuana-related areas, this is new territory. We do know that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found “no increased crash risk associated with cannabis use when controlling for demographic factors and alcohol use” in 2015. This ARDP myth is busted, as well – but it may be the best argument against legalizing recreational cannabis that they have – at least until we have enough data to prove them wrong.